Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Community Action with Local Heroes

I've been getting more involved with my community lately. I've taken on a number of volunteer positions with some green/environmental groups in town and at church. I'm meeting some terrific people who redirect my focus from the national mindset of confrontational politics and economic malaise toward effective local action. They are positive, proactive and progressive. Some of them are not only full of ideas, but they are incredibly hard working and dedicated to seeing them through.

I'm hoping some of that is rubbing off on me. Here are a few of my heroes:

Here's M teaching kids about composting.

As part of our local Green Team, M. has pushed, cajoled and spent an enormous amount of effort making deep recycling and composting happen in our local schools. For almost a year she has been: visiting and learning from other schools that compost; getting our local school lunch director, principals, teachers, and administrators on board; raising money; building sturdy composting bins; organizing volunteers; and now teaching composting and recycling procedures to over 600 kids in one of our elementary schools. We estimate that we are reducing the school's waste by nearly 60% by weight. By the end of the month we have likely kept a ton of food out of the landfill. Instead of creating methane, it's turning into rich soil for school gardens. Currently, the program is expanding to another elementary school, the middle school, and the kindergarten. Just last Friday and Saturday, M and other Green Team volunteers including a girl scout troop built six raised garden beds at a local school. Composting and gardening will be worked into the curriculum and will hopefully become lifelong habits for our local kids.

The new compost bins at one of our elementary schools,
built by volunteers and financed with donations.
There are three big bins at right to hold the food waste.
On the left is is covered bin for leaves and straw to cover the food scraps.

P. is a former middle-school teacher in our town. Although he doesn't live here, he's been instrumental in an effort to recycle cans and bottles on our town fields, at the town beach, and at our schools. He's distributed dozens of recycling bins to those areas and arranged for volunteers to pick up the cans and bottles and take them to the recycling center. As part of the Green Team, he's been helping negotiate with the department of public works trying to get them to pick this stuff up. (They already pick up the garbage!) As of now, the town is set to begin picking up recyclables in these areas starting next year when they get a new truck for that purpose. P's work has been instrumental in getting the town to recognize the need for this step. He also takes middle school kids on canoe trips where they not only have a great time, but also clean trash out of our beautiful waterways.

B. is another dedicated hero. He and a few friends have revitalized an old apple orchard on public recreation land in town. They began planting new trees back in 1993. Now those trees are bearing fruit. Each tree is labeled with the species name, the origin of the plant and the time of ripening. Anyone walking by can pick some fruit to enjoy. He and other volunteers continue to plant new trees and maintain the established ones throughout the year. Now the orchard includes apples, cherries, peaches, pears and a paw paw. Recently, I arranged a hike to this orchard, and B. generously agreed to tell us about its history and about orchard creation and maintenance. Between 15 and 20 locals joined us for the event. Perhaps, more orchards will be starting in people's yards!

B. teaching in the orchard

Finally, K. is an inspiration. She has started a Transition group in this town. Transition is an international movement that seeks to create community and resilience at a local level. The current group is small, but she has brought together dedicated individuals and reached out to established groups to get a conversation started about water safety, bee keeping, sustainable energy use, land conservation, and more.

All these individuals work in many capacities in a number of these groups. We are all compost bin builders, recycling volunteers, community organizers, friends, supporters, game changers. Who are your local heroes?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Don't Knit

There is no point in my taking up knitting. My mom is an incredibly prolific and beautiful knitter and provides our family with gorgeous hats, gloves, socks, scarves, sweaters, blankets and, for me, shawls.

Fall is shawl weather for me. I like to keep one along when going out to easily throw on and off in the car, in the cool library, on and off as the heat in restaurants or church cycles. Here are a couple my mom has given me over the years.

I called my mom this morning to find out the names of the yarns she uses. She notes that she loves beautiful yarns that can make even simple patterns into gorgeous items. But her patterns have become more complex over time.

Colinette hand dyed heavy cotton from Wales and according to my mom discontinued.

Karabella Gossimer first test of ruffle makin . This is a soft, light wool in an open pattern. It's a beautiful burgundy color with fine gold threads running throug.

Koigu KPPM, a light wool with a ruffle around the neck and down the front

If you're interested in any of these patterns I could get more information from my mom about them.

A tag sewed into her items reads, "Made with love in every stitch by Grandma Rosalyn." Obviously, she had it made for the kids, but puts it in things for me too. All these items will be greatly valued for such a long time.

In August my kids and I put in our Christmas/Chanukah orders. I'll show them when they arrive.

Thanks, Thanks, Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A very silly blog post

The crazy shape of this CSA fingerling potato spurred my creativity (not for cooking).

Here's my quick potato princess.

My daughter was charmed by this, but redid it to create her "spud Ariel".

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lots of Veggies!

Last Saturday we attended our second annual CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Tour Party. Members of the CSA get to walk with the farmers throught the beautiful fall fields checking out the plantings, feeling the soil, tasting the produce, learning about the new equipment that can plant such beautiful straight, close rows! Then we head back to the barns to eat, drink and get to know new friends of all ages. This year we even got to pile into the back of pick-up trucks for a short ride to a farther field.

Each week we get a half bushel box full of the freshest produce. In spring there are peas and baby greens, and radishes. Summer last year brought amazing amounts of tomatoes. This year there was abundant eggplant. Too much if you ask my son, who got very tired of eggplant Parmigiana over pasta. Now fall boxes are full of winter squashes, beets and leeks.

It can be a challenge to eat all these veggies in a week and create dishes that everyone will like. Here are some of my efforts:

All these greens and peppers went into delicious green enchilladas.

Here's a squash, leek, apple, almond combo I made for lunch to use up the roasted squash from the night before. YUM!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September Riot Summary

OK, I've found the actual Riot calculator here. So here are the results for the items I tracked for the month of September 2011.

transportation 47 % of US average
electricity 410 kwh 45 % of US average
heating/cooking 13 therms 16 % of US average
garbage 26 lbs/4 people 5 % of US average

I've checked the water meter to measure our water use for next month. For heating/cooking this is a monthly measure in a non-heating month. After a year, I can use the yearly version of the calculator to assess this more fairly. I'm surprised that our electric use is this high. Come spring I will try to reduce our dryer use with an outdoor line. Otherwise, I'm not sure where we can cut back too much. Transportation was a bit higher than normal this month because I took a vacation in Cape May with friends I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was worth it. I'm looking forward to seeing what it is in a more typical month. I'm pleased with the garbage numbers and this is sort of what I expected. I've been very good about reducing our purchasing of things that create trash, especially food items, and I've been trying to compost as much as possible.

I'm not sure if we'll ever get down to 10 % of US average for electricity and heat, and I'm not sure if I'd like the life that would entail. But it's a starting point to reduce further. I'm glad that we're already using half the amount of the average American. That's something.